We are becoming accustomed to certain aspects of life as Fulham supporters. Whether it be the ongoing Brexit saga, Fulham’s inability to keep a clean sheet or perhaps the dilemma of whether to go for the Bovril or the gin at halftime. But there’s one positive habit amongst all the bad ones. One shining light that we have seen grow into an integral part of the team, therefore, assuming he will start week in, week out, and that fine young man is Ryan Sessegnon…
Although it felt like the team didn’t turn up at Old Trafford last weekend, Ryan stepped out into the Theatre of Dreams wearing the black & white of his beloved Fulham with pride and for the 100th time! ONE HUNDRED APPEARANCES and barely 18 & 1/2 years of age… quite extraordinary. Like everyone else in our squad, Ryan is finding out just how tough the Premier League can be but is naturally given the benefit of the doubt given his age and sentimental value to the fans. His selection in the matchday squad for 97 of the past 98 games is on merit. A young man with immense talent, who shows dedication, bravery, passion & an understanding of the professionalism & love needed to be adored so much by the Fulham faithful, putting to shame most of his teammates.
I remember his debut at Leyton Orient just over 2 years ago, he was at left back and gave a very good account of himself but it was his youth teammate, Dennis Adeniran who stole the show becoming our youngest ever goalscorer. Dennis soon disappeared into the background and eventually moved to Everton with his record diminished almost instantly. It took Ryan just 11 days to come off the bench against Cardiff City at the Cottage and a matter of seconds to be in the right place at the right time to finish off a tidy move, how often would we see that scenario play out in the years to come? Fulham had a new record holder and a new hero.
He hit stardom as the rest of the country sat up and took notice when he blew away table-topping giants Newcastle United at St James Park, scoring a brace. Frustratingly being denied the opportunity to become the youngest player ever, to score a hat trick as a 16-year-old by Slav. Instead, Tim Ream was told to take the injury-time penalty, putting the spot kick wide but what doesn’t kill you Sess, will only make you stronger and so history would prove. 30 appearances, 7 goals in your debut season at the age of just 16. One May, you’re preparing for your GCSE’s & the next your playoff ambitions are realised, albeit without the happy ending which would come the following year. But we were right to believe we had something special.
Scott Malone & Sone Aluko now sold on, the left side of our squad looking thin. Time to step up young man and Ryan took that responsibility with open arms. Eventually, he did get his hat-trick in a thrilling 4v5 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, playing in the more advanced role on the wing as opposed to left back, a theme we would begin to see more and more of as January approached and the signing of Matt Targett was confirmed. Having just missed out to Reading in the playoffs, so much was riding on the 17/18 campaign to get the job done in what appeared to be a ‘now or never’ scenario for this squad of very talented players & coaches. Ryan was vital during that unbeaten run and was no longer the squad playing youngster of last season, as mentioned Aluko was gone, Kebano non-existent & Ayite most likely injured with no doubt that the 17-year-old, already a man before his time was number one in the pecking order and boy did he deliver. Despite the superhuman performances at times from Mitro being on fire, Sess finished the campaign as top goalscorer with 16 goals and was the only player to play in all 49 league games including the playoffs.
Whilst some players flatter to deceive scoring goals in meaningless games or as consolation goals, Ryan was always there when it mattered most. The opener away to Millwall comes to mind, under the cosh for the whole first half, he turned the game on its head. The Burton home game the season before in stoppage time to rescue a point, the winners at home to promotion favourites Villa & Wolves during the unbeaten run but none as big as the goal that got us back on track against Derby County in the playoffs. Right man, right place, right time, to take Johansen’s header on his chest and rifle the ball into the top corner. Kiss that badge Mr Sessegnon, cos you’ve just given the Fulham their dream of Wembley back! Like Adeniran at the very beginning against Orient, it was another Dennis stealing the headlines as Odoi heroicly headed us into dreamland and on to the biggest stage of all in the world’s most lucrative match. Sess once again stepped up, having the game of his life and assisting one of the best goals in Fulham Football Club’s history. What it meant, how good it looked, how genius the pass was and how it typified everything Slavisa’s Fulham were about, summing up 2 years of breathtaking football in 10 seconds of pure magic, and managing to make John Terry cry at the same time! The only Fulham team to ever win at Wembley… and this lad had only turned 18 a week ago!
Here we are sat at the foot of the Premier League table, learning the hard way with a new manager, several new players but still bursting with pride at the sight of one young man who you just can’t drop from the eleven. Fulham have played 19 games this season, Sess has appeared in 18 of them, missing the clash with the Lions in the cup whom he’d tamed just months before anyway. Records don’t appear to be slowing down either as he became the club’s youngster Premier League scorer at 18 years, 155 days old when he scored our second at the Cardiff City Stadium in October, beating Collins John’s record by 21 days. It’s impossible to know what the future will hold for this young man, whether he will get that England cap and become the first Fulham player since Bobby Zamora to do so, will he win a cup with Fulham, will he stay his whole career and tally up an exceptional appearance number? Who knows, but one thing’s for certain, Sessegnon is in the 100 club, an achievement the likes of Rodney Marsh, George Best, Geoff Horsfield, Papa Bouba Diop, Erik Nevland, John Pantsil, Mousa Dembele (Senior) & Dimitar Berbatov didn’t manage to reach in a Fulham shirt.
He also became the 41st player (post 2nd World War) considered as ‘one of our own’ to go onto make 100 appearances for the club. And with pretty much everyone on the list below either making their debut just before or after their 18th birthday, it is almost a certainty, that Ryan reached a century in the quickest time and at the youngest age.
An outstanding achievement at a period of the season where there appears little to be proud of. But Fulham Football Club’s future is bright, the futures Ryan Sessegnon…
“One of our own” 100+ apps (post 2nd World War)